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The Negligents

Narrated by: Kate Smith
Length: 6 hrs and 27 mins
5 out of 5 stars (2 ratings)

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Summary

A tragic yet humorous coming-of-age story, The Negligents plots the flailing friendship between Polina and Grace and their troubled families. The fascinating intricacies of their lives are seen from multiple viewpoints as an interwoven series of scenes unfold, but who is telling the truth, and who has secrets yet to reveal?  

As a former lawyer, author Kate Smith is fascinated by legal constructs, turning them upside down and inside out to shed light on the messy business of being alive. In this, her debut novel, she uses the framework of a legal negligence claim to explore the nature of friendship, of family loyalty, and how a simple act of carelessness can have deeply toxic consequences.

©2018 Kate Smith (P)2018 Valley Press

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A fabulously performed tale of two friends

Smith's writing is very elegant and I was persuaded to download it by another reviewer who called her writing 'poetic'. They're right: her descriptions make your head spin with new truths. This is a beautifully-written tale of two friends, as they negotiate growing up, sexual awakenings, family ups and downs, and the stresses and strains of relationships. It's funny, moving, observant and adroit. I loved this book and urge you to listen. (I also wondered if Smith could voice more books - she had a lovely deadpan delivery which is better than some 'famous' actors I've paid good money to listen to. Laughed out loud on packed tube trains on a few too many occasions.)

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Humorous and beautifully poetic

Disclaimer- I got completely immersed in this humorous and at times beautifully poetic book, so you just might too.

While billed as a coming of age story, Kate Smith’s writing taps into universal themes with an emotional maturity not always found in debut novelists. The reader will no doubt recognise him or herself in the characters struggles, over time, to form and maintain relationships, through their own insecurities and feelings.

The book doesn’t shy away from grappling with the deep sadness that I suspect each of us carries within. For the characters, their sadness comes from a variety of sources- absent parents, the long shadow of childhood, the price of success, unrequited love, feelings of not being enough and the loss of loved ones to name but a few. Yet despite their heartaches, the characters find enough beauty in the everyday moments and their enduring friendships to carry on, which is so touching, it is almost overwhelming at times.

The use of legal principles, like breach and loss, to structure the chapters of the book, reflects the endearing cleverness of one of the main protagonists, Polina. The structure also aptly ties into the emotional currents of the characters that question things such as ‘what are the rules of this family/ friendship/ life?’ and ‘who is to blame for this disappointment I feel?’. Like any court case in which actors see the same events differently, each character tells his or her part of the story from a highly empathetic viewpoint that provides no quick or easy answers to the characters questions.

I wish I had paced myself, as now eagerly await another book from Kate Smith. However, I have found myself returning to beautiful images such as fairy light moments that she has placed in my mind which will have to sustain me until the next time.